The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who is the greatest interior offensive lineman in Steelers history?
I think it would have been too easy of an answer if I just talked about the greatest guard in Steelers history. Alan Faneca. Done deal. That’s not to say that there haven’t been other guards in the team’s history that have been good. Hell, they have two now in David DeCastro and Ramon Foster.
I wanted to try to expand the discussion, so instead we’re going to talk about all interior offensive linemen, both guards and centers. But before we begin, I feel it’s important to note that they had a center in the 50s and 60s named Buzz Nutter. If only he had stuck around long enough to snap the ball to Dick Shiner.
Ray Mansfield, on another team, could get a lot of love, but not for a franchise that has already had Mike Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Maurkice Pouncey. Throw Faneca in there, and you’re probably not going to come up with any team who has had this kind of heritage along the interior offensive line.
Webster and Dawson are the ones who are in the Hall of Fame, so I’m sure they are going to receive the lion’s share of the attention in this discussion, and I don’t think that’s wrong. They are certainly two of the best interior offensive linemen the game has ever seen.
I was still somewhat growing up into the game while Faneca was getting started. Watching him play, I took the quality of his performance for granted, carrying the assumption that this was how linemen were to play. it didn’t really dawn on me until after he left what the team was missing without him.
I didn’t get to watch Webster, nor even Dawson much, while they were still playing, and by the time I was watching Dawson, I still had a ways to go before I understood anything about the offensive line and what made one good other than not being dominated.